Andres Tennus

Hans Orru to head the Centre for Sustainable Development from 1 January

At the council meeting of the University of Tartu’s Centre for Sustainable Development on 13 December, the council appointed Professor of Environmental Health Hans Orru as the new Head of the Centre, taking office on 1 January. The current Head of the Centre, Associate Professor of Social Communication Margit Keller, will take up the post of the Dean of the Faculty of Social Sciences.

During its first year of operation, the Centre for Sustainable Development has been involved in policy-making for Estonia’s green transition, creating new courses to develop students’ future skills, conducting research into the mobility and working time habits of university members, and initiating several projects encompassing various fields of research. The most recent among the latter is the monitoring study on the social processes of the just transition in Ida-Viru County, which started in December. Besides, the centre has explained climate change and sustainability-related issues to the public, bringing together expertise from various research fields when commenting on important issues.

“In our first year, we have been active in public communication. We’ve also been surprisingly successful in applying for project funding. However, I don’t consider the latter to be the centre’s main activity but rather a natural by-product of new fruitful collaborations and ideas. There has been experimenting and searching for the way of action, as we are only taking the first steps. In my opinion, the most important is to knowingly promote an interdisciplinary debate, i.e. look at sustainability issues from the point of various disciplines. This requires commitment and interdisciplinary trust. This is the centre’s main mission,” said Margit Keller, summing up the first year.

The council acknowledged the centre’s activities and noted that it has played a supportive role in encouraging the sustainability debate in the university’s research areas and and redefining the university’s activities and mission as an organisation through the sustainability discourse.

The new Head of the Centre Hans Orru regards it essential to further develop the centre’s operation model. It is important to be the provider of new ideas and networking opportunities at the university and to be involved in sustainability-related strategic discussions while preparing the university’s new strategic plan. Orru is also looking to increase cooperation with students. One possible way is to facilitate joint supervision of theses and engage student organisations more in discussions. “Sustainability is a key issue in the just transition towards climate neutrality. The university’s central role is to provide science-based support for that and lead by example,” said Orru.

During the centre’s first year of operation, Hans Orru was a member of its panel of experts. His main research interests are the health impacts of air pollution, climate change, noise and other environmental factors. As an expert, he has contributed to compiling development plans and impact assessments and was a co-author of the 6th Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC).


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